Updated December 13, 2008 11:14am | In the ever-competing world of micro-blogging site, there is one I hold dear to my heart, Rejaw.
This service, launched in August 2008, has had some great features from the start. Will them help it survive against Twitter?
The people behind Rejaw are a very interesting blend of experienced and talented people: Kenn Ejima, Danny Burke, Chris Boone and Satoshi Nakagawa.
Mini-blog + chat = fun
Most micro-blogging services are limited to 140 characters entry, for they tie their offering to SMS. As I don’t believe in an SMS future, I think the 1000 characters allowance that Rejaw gives you for a “shout” is liberating, even if most users tend to limit themselves to smaller entries, either by a Twitter-induced habit or by simple convenience.
What sets this tool apart are the little details. It’s really a micro-blog plus a chat tool: while the entries appear on the timeline, replies are threaded. It might be nothing, but when you know the massive amount of chatter that Twitter can generate, this is more than welcome.
To limit the noise even more, the replies auto-close after 3 days, keeping the discussion fresh. This might also have been done for another reasons: Rejaw is the only service I know of that pushes entries with a new reply on top of your page (well, except for Friendfeed, which is not a direct competitor).
And if you’re not willing to listen to the noise for a while, you can simply mute a conversation. Clever. Some other services should learn.
Obviously, there’s also a direct message type of entry, called “whisper”.
As in the defunct Pownce service, links, audio and picture are automatically embedded on Rejaw, which allows for a very nice enhanced experience.
Add to that a very nice user interface and you’ve got a winner.
The other nifty difference is the pushing of the timeline. While other services and desktop softwares are pulling entries, Rejaw is real-time, either on the web or on the recently-updated MacOS X client (note that there’s an iPhone app as well).
This force could also be an Achille’s heel in the long run, as servers must be doing some more work to achieve this. Scalability will be the keyword to follow.
A technological winner, a user interface winner, but has it reached a big enough audience to become a mainstream service?
I’ve used comparable services, namely Plurk.com and Identi.ca and avoided the gorilla, Twitter for my comparative audience-reaching graphs below.
Compete.com shows that after a usual initial curiosity bump, Rejaw has been stagnating in its unique visitors, while Plurk.com sees a wider appeal.
Google Trends shows the same story, albeit a bit more dramatically.
Finally, Alexa.com’s reach calculation shows the same loss of steam since September.
Why the loss of users? Curiosity-fatigue, first, and as in every other new social service: the network effect. You’ll only use a service if you find friends or acquaintances or a niche community you’re willing to be part of.
I’m on the fence about Rejaw having been able to create such a niche. I have found some nice people to chat with, especially Kenn, the founder (Rejaw offers you to follow the 4-people team at the beginning to get you started).
The Mac-only route might also have turned off some users that were willing to try the service but not keep their experience browser-only.
It must be however noter that Rejaw did all the right things in the beginning, especially with having its API for developers ready from the start. But is it enough for the long run?
There doesn’t seem to be a publicly worded economic model for Rejaw. Neither there is chatter about ads or premium content. It’s not even known if the founder would welcome any of these solutions if asked.
However, ads are not, in my opinion, the future for Rejaw.
While Plurk.com was able to catch a bigger audience, Rejaw remains more familiar to Twitter users and people looking for a simple yet efficient UI. That’s the asset to build upon.
The team should hence be concentrating its effort to create groups, the lack thereof being the biggest complaint people have about Twitter.
Workgroups, small businesses and office-less companies are keen to use a great service for interaction. The push abilities of Rejaw would put the company on the forefront of users looking for real-time teamwork.
Users would certainly continue using Twitter for their main micro-blogging purposes, but Rejaw could become their #1 resource for behind-closed-door business activities. That’s a consequent niche.
Yammer is somewhat playing in that field, but I believe Rejaw has the tools and the talent to offer much more.
Updated December 13, 2008 11:14am | Kenn tells me he agrees on the group functionality and talks about a Windows-client
What’s SocialToo anyway
SocialToo is working to compliment your social experience by providing you with all the tools you need to get the most you can from those you follow on the web. We’re automating the processes needed to make this experience as easy as possible, and providing you with tools to reach your audience to its fullest potential.
is how the founders describe it on the main page.
The tool allows you to manage your Twitter relationship to a certain extent. As Qwitter, you receive an email with the users that have stopped following you. However, it also adds the people that have started following you and this in the form of a daily e-mail (and not a push e-mail like Qwitter does).
SocialToo also offers you a widely used tool: the auto-follow. You can actually decide to automate the courtesy of following every person that starts following you, sending the person a direct message of your choice along the way (I use it to thank the user and give the URL of my blog).
SocialToo is intelligent enough to also offer you the possibility of auto-unfollow, in case a person decides not to read your micro-blog entries anymore.
It goes even further, as you’re offered the possibility of actually blacklisting those users/stalkers you don’t want to read about anymore.
SocialToo can also be used to create small surveys that are sent to Twitter.
Interestingly enough, your username.socialtoo.com can redirect to your Facebook profile.
As a bonus, SocialToo not only works with Twitter but also with the less-adopted open-source micro-blogging tool, Identi.ca
The fact that SocialToo’s surveys appear more and more in the Twitter chatter means that the tool is becoming widely used. Not bad for a company that started this venture on Nov. 08.
Haven’t seen one that was answered by a large enough number of people to be scientifically useful, but that’s a start. A great idea is to have included a RSS feed to the surveys, for easy follow-up.
With some email parsing, as with Qwitter, one could create trends in his follows/unfollows.
Not everyone is a fan of this auto-follow method, since it might add a lot of noise-to-signal (having to follow a lot of people just adds to the chatter). However, with emerging tools like TweetDeck, PeopleBrowsr and others that allow you to clean the chatter, the auto-follow could become part of the Twittetiquette of the future.
All in all, I find this service very useful. It could grow to much better things in the future.
The company was created by Jesse Stay and Guy Kawazaki, of AllTop fame. Ownership is split between Stay N Alive and Guy. Garage.com has partnered to launch the latest updates on SocialToo, but it is unclear if the venture capital company is financially involved at this point.
No clear business model is in place, as with many companies burgeoning in the Twitter Economy. I remain however bullish on its capacity to monetize its head-start in the coming months, provided the company finds clever way of integrating ads or creating actual statistics that could be very useful to marketers and entrepreneurs using Twitter.
As Twitter becomes widely adopted -almost 5 million and counting-, it is maybe time to ask the following question: Is there such a thing as a Twittetiquette?
If you are a user of Twitter, there are chances you’ve sometimes asked yourself the question on how to use the tool, how to exactly interact with other users.
There’s certainly not one answer to this question. However, as the number of adopters grows every day, you should be starting to ask yourself the basic question: why am I on Twitter?
As an individual, you might just want to follow chatter about subject you love or intereact with a larger circle of people you either know or share interests with.
As a brand, you’re certainly willing to expand your customer base, deliver messages and market your product and services.
Once you’ve decided on your own goal, remember that you’re interacting with other individuals.
In addition and as with every emerging tool, there are some unsaid set of rules that are in the process of being defined as to what people accept or not in their Twitter world. Beyond the basic terms of service, you should hence pay attention to your own behavior.
Twitter adopts the FOAF (“friend of a friend”) method and is not behind a wall. It means that you can discover followers of anyone and start following anyone. There is not, like in Facebook, the need to request the friendship and there’s even no need to be signed in to actually follow chatter of a user.
With Twitter having not yet set groups -apart from Japan where it’s experimenting with Twicco- finding users beyond those in your address book is sometimes difficult.
Is the rule of thumb of ony experimenting the only way to go, though ?
Not exactly. Every user has the possibilty to add a website to its profile. Check it out, learn about the individual or brand behind the username. Reading is mini-bio is also considered positive –it’s not there for nothing.
@ reply or direct message?
The way Twitter is implemented means that you can actually ask this question only when there’s a two-way follow. In that case, flooding the chatter with pointless @ replies is not considered well. Use the @ reply for messages that might interest others or when you’ve got no other choice.
One of the most powerful use of Twitter is the retweet. While not being a direct Twitter implementation, the RT, retweeting another’s user’s message, is now quite common. A message can be amplified easily. Then again, use it only for messages that bear some interest to your followers. Plus, only repeating what others have to say might be annoying to some. Use the RT wisely.
Should you follow everyone that follows you?
There’s not a definite answer to this. It is certain that some people you encounter on Twitter seem only to get after the maximum number of followers to add to their statistics, disregarding the actual common interests that could be shared.
With tools like SocialToo, the process of reciprocating the courtesy of being followed can now be automated. The automation can, of course, help one quickly pile new users up. It shouldn’t be seen as such. With tools like TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr emerging, the chatter can be parsed and become more useful.
Sending a direct message to the other user when auto-follow is possible through SocialToo. A thank you should be the least you could write, 140 characters is more than enough for that.
Should you unfollow anyone that unfollows you?
SocialToo also allows for automatic unfollow. In an ideal world where people would only follow people of real interest to them, such a tool could be considered as the following message: “sorry, we’ve actually got nothing real in common, was nice to meet you”. You cannot be friends with everyone, so be it.
I consider that people that decide to unfollow could at least send a direct message before actually doing it. True, the Twitter tool doesn’t allow for direct message amongst people that do not follow each other, which means the unfollowed wouldn’t get a chance to reply. He could however well send a normal @ reply. That’s simple courtesy.
Then again, Twitter is not always that ideal world. I’ve encountered many users following me back, quickly sending me a message advertising their blog, service and product and unfollowing me immediatly.
This is, in my opinion, the rudest manner I’ve experienced. If there’s a real Twittetiquette to emerge, this should be the rule #1: no direct message followed by an unfollow.
I like this user set of rules versus top-down rules that could one day arrive
Towards a Twittetiquette
As an individual or as a brand, remember that a social network should be like any other conversation you have with a human being: you say “hi!” when you mett, you look them in the eyes when they talk, you care about what they say to you, you answer when they ask a question and you leave by saying goodbye.
If people were simply applying these basic principles, the Twittetiquette would simply be a synonym of politness.
According to a recent study by Epsilon, it appears that despite the impressive growth that both Facebook and MySpave have seen since 2003, chief marketing officers (CMO) at leading brands are not too interested in using social media in their marketing mix.
Epsilon’s survey shows that 22% of CMO were not too interested, while a staggering 33% were not interested at all in incorporating social networking in their strategies.
Only 10% are already using these new media. Paradoxically however, 27% of the CMO surveyed actually believe that social networking sites is valuable in a time of cost cutting.
Forums, webcasts/podcats, email and blog are still the weapon of choice for those who took part in the study. Email attracts the interest of almost half of them and is the channel that will be less impacted by budget reduction.
Where’s the ad economic model?
Social media might be the current frenzy, no one seems to have yet found a proper way to advertise on them. Facebook only runs ads on the side, as MySpace is doing. Twitter has yet to decide whether or not it wants ads on the site -it only hinted at adding them to the search engine à la Google-.
People accessing Google are looking for search terms and might easily be derived to the right hand pane or the top sponsored results. People accessing social networking site are all about the community, about their friends. It’s a very focused, if not egocentric, experience that will force marketers and engineers alike to find innovative ways to talk to the customer.
This is the battle of 2009.
What’s Qwitter anyway
As their motto says it, it’s about “Catching Twitter Quitters”: a simple tool that automatically sends you an e-mail update whenever one of your followers un-follows you.
The email recevied not only tells you who quit on you, but also after what tweet (or Twitter entry, if you prefer).
Personaly, I love it and use it on all my Twitter accounts. It’s evidently limited by the fact that people can quit on you for various reasons and not especially that last entry you added. Still, it allows you to track unfollowers. You might be able to detect trends if you alter the way you micro-blog or if your brand made changes that seem unnapproved by the community.
A tracking tool is better than no tool at all. You could even parse the result in a database to create trend graphs.
Contrast.ie, the company behind it, launched Qwitter in October 2008. It seems that it is a pet project to play along the Twitter API and to offer users a nifty tool. There’s not declared intent on monetization, either as a pay-to-use model or ad model. The only possible hint at their future plans?
Qwitter is not affiliated with Twitter, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?
It’s on the main page …
Some of you probably remember the days when Google emerged as the leader in search. Overnight, a whole new breed of services emerged and used it a their main growth engine.
From SEO advisers to meta-searchers to browser add-ons, you name it.
Today, with Twitter, there’s a similar burgeoning breed of tools created around the micro-blogging leader.
That’s what I define as the Twitter Economy.
The Twitter Economy
As Twitter has decided not to restrain itself to only 140 characters entries and a little search with limited settings, a whole world of developers, either individuals or companies have emerged using Twitter as their growth engine.
Will they succeed or fail? Will they boost Twitter or hinder it?
That’s what I will analyze in future articles.
If, as a brand or a individual, you’ve ever been using recent social networking tools and older ones like RSS feeds, Google Alerts and the grandfather of social networking, the email, you’ve certainly reached a point where you were wondering how you’d be able to follow all the chatter that was happening in front of your eyes.
Paying attention is becoming of the utmost importance in such an online world. Here’s why.
Your influence network
A recent study by HP Labs specific to Twitter, shows that people with a high number of friends (two-way connections with engagement) related to their number of followers (one-way connections) are the most active. It’s what drives people to use micro-blogging on a more regular basis.
It’s basic and every social network user should know that: there’s a difference between your online network (total of people connected with you) and your influence network (people actually listening).
While it’s easy to gain a lot of followers on Twitter, especially with tools like SocialToo that automate the courtesy of reciprocating a network addition, it doesn’t mean much in terms of influence.
That only creates a two-way connection, but doesn’t mean that people will actually be interested in what you write, less be influenced or even bothered to read your messages at all.
Change of mindset
However, as Twitter blurs the line between a blog (mostly a one-way communication) and an instant messaging tool (a two-way communication), dedication to the follow-up becomes tantamount.
Like in any real-life discussion, the attention level is what people will feel.
Do not reciprocate the lack of attention that people might have, drowned in all the chatter they’re seeing on their screens everyday.
Do not let them feel ignored.
Discuss with them, relate with them and they will enter your influence network.
The lack of attention
The lack of attention is also towards your brand message: did you ask yourself why are you getting on Twitter?
Do you want to know what people say about your brand (research)?
Do you want to simply get a message across (viral marketing)?
Do you want to learn & share with current and future customers (engaging)?
Set a clear goal.
If you want to engage with people, is it for support reasons? To create an Apple-like devotion of followers? Tell people about new products?
Set a clear goal and stick to it.
Then, define the level of attention you’re ready to give.
Be modest at first:
The cost of declaring a new followee is very low compared to the cost of maintaining a friends
says the HP Labs study.
Following-up at the individual level is a daunting task. Set limits to what you’re going to do, so that everyone’s clear about why you’re on Twitter.
Then only you’ll meet your followers expectations and draw them into your influence network.
We really appreciate your continued support and understanding. Thanks so much for being part of the Pownce community.
With these words, the Pownce team announced today that the micro-blogging service will be gone by December 15th.
The technology was acquired by Six Apart, the company behind TypePad and Movable Type.
Leah and Mike will be joining the team while Kevin and Daniel will become advisers. Users are given a tool to export their entries in XML and Movable Type format, a nice move.
While this particular news was not expected, the multiplication of micro-blogging tools and the current economic downturn inevitably had to lead to some consolidation of the market.
Rumor has it that Pownce was in the market for another round of financing. The task apparently proved impossible.
The acquisition move by Six Apart is intelligent. It’s not simply because it is adding a micro-blogging tool to an existing portfolio of self-hosted blog software, ready-to-use blog solution and Tumblr-type fast-blogging platform.
It is even very uncertain that Six Apart will create yet another micro-blogging tool. Letting the Pownce userbase go (the Vox move is only optional) is proof enough.
The high potential is in a status updater tool, à la Facebook integrated to their services.
There’s a lesson to be learned by looking at Pownce, though. Pownce wasn’t different enough.
Service wasn’t enough: Pownce did offer more than others, with not only offer text entries, but also embeddable pictures as well as audio and video file-sharing abilities.
Hype wasn’t enough: Pownce was launched with the help of Kevin, the highly respected entrepreneur in the web2.0 world that attracts hordes of early adopters with new ventures he gets out.
In a world where Twitter exists leads the pack, had Pownce a chance? Compete.com shows it actually never did.
The future of micro-blogging
Some argued at the time of the Pownce service launch that Twitter would certainly add some file-sharing abilities rapidly. It never happened.
By sticking with what it knows best, 140 characters of text, Twitter makes it simple for everyone to join and participate. It’s as simple as updating your Facebook status. No distraction.
Twitter knows that mainstream users will sign up and use a
service where they already find most of their friends online.
If one wants to compete, either buy Twitter or be different enough.
Still, it’s not mainstream. Yet, in the current economic downturn, finding the right revenue model is becoming more important than ever.
Ads and… ?
The company wants to add ads. Ads in social network have proven a biggest challenge than on usual
websites, for the consumer has all its attention focused to its own world, his “friends”. Ads on the side and in the search engine can be quickly added, but that won’t certainly be enough to become profitable.
Adding ads directly in the blog stream could work to a level, but this wouldn’t be very welcome by the current tech-savvy users.
Twitter knows that and decided to go for yet another round of capital: it recently raised USD 22 million, according to Bloomberg. It will let the company attract more and more users and magnet them to the service before making other choices.
Japan is used as a sandbox for an experiment, Twitter groups.
While most power-users have to rely on tools like TweetDeck to sort through their followed tweets, Twicco.jp promises to channel those at the source. ROI on group ads would clearly be higher and I think the company has decide quick on how to implement groups worldwide.
According to a recent -albeit very unscientific- poll, about half of the Twitter users would be ready to pay for some premium services. This is good news.
Micro-charging users to use the service is a first idea that comes to mind. Then again, the Twitter wanna-be’s are there. Paying to turn ads off could also work, as getting a pro account with more customization: profile features, domain name mapping.
The company could even think about a usage cap for free users: numbers of following/followers, tweets per day.
Branding Twitter, branded tweets
Since brands are interested in the micro-blogging tool, domain name mapping could be a clever premium idea. The other ? Charge companies for their use of Twitter as a help/support or viral marketing, by sharing revenue on promotions or allowing profile targeted search. Allow for various user interface at a price is also possible.
But why not the following idea?
Twitter could act as a registrar and charge for brand names.
If GAP wants the “gap” username, register it. On branded.twitter.com for instance.
It’s late to say that. Twitter will have to fight. They should think about it, even if that means creating another domain name just for brands and find a way to include these in the current users’ stream.
It’s clearly also valid for other social micro-blogging services, but as the leader, Twitter should act fast.
Integrating the corporation
Further down the road, Twitter should also take a look at what Yammer does. Integrating a Twitter-like tool for intranets should be explored. A participative announcement feed? Yes, maybe. An advanced IM tool? Yes of course.
Having the ability to register a chat in a tool without having to predefine groups is very interesting. If the ability to create channels was also there, the team working or multi-channel chatter advantages
That’s of course, if Twitter doesn’t marry with Facebook. But that’s another story.